Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on Tuesday urged the Civil Service Commission to fire Lobna Zoabi, an employee of her own ministry, over a Facebook post uploaded almost two years ago following a terror attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, in which two policemen were killed.
"To anybody who says that people’s lives matter more than the land, the home and al-Aqsa, I say to you: If this land and our home is raped, you and your souls will be next in line,” Zoabi posted on Facebook.
The post went on to read: “You will not be able to protect your bodies and lives if you cannot protect your symbols, your lands, your children, your identity and your existence in dignity, without humiliation.”
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A person who serves as a mouthpiece for martyrs and writes about “occupied Jerusalem” cannot continue to work at any ministry in Israel, Regev wrote to the civil service commission.
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Zoabi, who is in charge of Arab culture at the Culture Ministry, had put up the post a day after the Temple Mount attack in which Hael Sathawi, 30, and Kamil Shanan, 22, were killed in July 2017. She underwent a civil service disciplinary hearing in 2017, which just ended last week; she was rebuked and fined half a monthly salary.
Uri Cohen, the lawyer heading the Civil Service tribunal, wrote that she hadn’t understood that being a state civil servant constrains freedom of expression.
But at no stage during her process, which only ended last week, did the Culture Ministry demand that Zoabi be fired until now.
“There is no place for Palestine loyalists and fans of shaheeds [martyrs] in State of Israel ministers,” Regev wrote. “It is time to stand up for ourselves… enough of the conquest of our courts by sundry do-gooders. We should turn our backs to people who turn their backs to us.”
Zoabi’s legal counsel, Alber Nahas, said that Regev is trying to eliminate the most senior Arab worker in the ministry. He added that Zoabi is considering filing a libel suit over the claim that she served as a “mouthpiece for martyrs” and demands an immediate apology.
The Mossawa Center, which advocates for equality for Arab citizens in Israel, commented that the state is trying to constrain freedom of speech by its Arab employees, while not constraining or rebuking Jewish employees, including rabbis, who call for Arabs to be murdered.
Ahmad Tib, joint chairman of the Hadash-Ta’al party, claimed that it was an attempt to apply the “Loyalty in Culture” law through a civil servant.
“Minister Regev’s pounce on Lobna Zoabi and her demand to fire her is a witch hunt and transparent attempt to apply the Loyalty in Culture law, which failed, via the Civil Service Commission,” Tibi said. “Lobna is a senior official who does her work faithfully and isn’t supposed to line up with government policy.”
Knesset member Neven Abu Rahmoun of Balad said that Zoabi does “important, crucial work” and that Regev is “effective only at persecuting anybody who dares to critique the racist, discriminatory occupaying policy of the State of Israel.”